Campus accreditation reaffirmed, but inspectors stress need for rational tuition policy, nonresident enrollment

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Chancellor Nicholas Dirks announced Thursday that the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission, or WSCUC, has acted to reaffirm UC Berkeley’s accreditation.

The campus was approved for a 10-year accreditation cycle — the maximum possible interval — and was particularly commended by the commission for its commitment to undergraduate education. The accreditation team was wary, however, of the adverse impact that ongoing discussions on capping tuition and out-of-state enrollment could have on the campus.

David Fairris, a professor at UC Riverside and member of UC Berkeley’s accreditation review team, said in an email that much of the process is a formality for UC campuses, noting that the denial of accreditation is “very unlikely if not impossible.” Every UC campus is currently accredited for the maximum possible period.

Fairris added that the WSCUC can “hold UC campuses’ feet to the fire” with regard to the effectiveness of undergraduate instruction at these institutions.

The review process for reaccreditation began in fall 2012 with the preparation of an institutional self-study report. The report emphasized UC Berkeley’s commitment to enhancing the range of opportunities for interdisciplinary education in the undergraduate curriculum through initiatives such as the College of Letters and Science’s “Big Ideas” courses.

While the accreditation review team’s report of its visit commended the campus for these measures, the team also recommended that the campus reconsider its reliance on nontenure track faculty, especially for lower-division classes. In identifying upcoming challenges, the report noted that the campus needs to “configure its faculty in order to support the mission of advancing knowledge while simultaneously meeting student needs.”

The visiting team also noted in its report that despite the campus’s efforts to implement cost-cutting measures and improve administrative efficiency, “no institution can cut its way to excellence.” The team wrote that any attempt to cap out-of-state and international student enrollment or keep tuition rates flat would have “dire consequences for Berkeley’s ability to maintain competitiveness, quality, access, and excellence.” As a result, it recommended that campus administration continue to work with the university and state government to implement a “more predictable and rational tuition policy.”

The accreditation team visited campus last fall after receiving the self-study report and said it was impressed with UC Berkeley’s undergraduate programs, according to Richard Winn, senior vice president of the WSCUC.

Cynthia Schrager, the campus assistant vice provost for undergraduate education, said in an email that the administration was proud that the visiting team recognized the institution’s commitment to equity and inclusion and that the campus will continue to work toward ensuring that students have the full benefit of working with research faculty.

The next comprehensive review for UC Berkeley will take place in 2024, and a standard mid-cycle review is scheduled for 2020.

Contact Ishaan Srivastava at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ishaansriv.